A dog's bark may be worse than his bite, but most of us would rather not find out one way or the other. Growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping, and biting are all aggressive behaviors-but dog aggression includes any behavior meant to intimidate or harm a person or another animal. Although these messages are among the handful of communication tools available to dogs, they're generally unacceptable to humans. Because humans and dogs have different communication systems, misunderstandings can occur between the two species.
Punishment won't help and, in fact, will often make the problem worse. If the aggression is motivated by fear, punishment will make your dog more fearful, and therefore more aggressive. Attempting to punish or dominate a dominantly aggressive dog may actually lead him to escalate his behavior to retain his dominant position. This is likely to result in a bite or a severe attack. Punishing territorial, possessive, or protective aggression is likely to elicit additional defensive aggression.
Because working with aggressive dogs can be potentially dangerous, behavior modification techniques should only be attempted by, or under the guidance of, an experienced animal behavior professional who understands animal learning theory and behavior.
The Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program was started in 1989 by the American Kennel Club. All dogs, including both purebred and mixed breed dogs are welcome to participate in the CGC program. The following description is offered on the AKC's website:
The CGC is a certification program that is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. All dogs who pass the 10-step CGC test may receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club.
The goal of the CGC Class is to prepare your dog for Canine Good Citizen Test, which includes the following sections:
Click here for a description of each test item and to learn more about the CGC Test.